Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Big House to Host Cold War II

The University of Michigan will get a chance to try and break the world record for biggest crowd at a hockey game when they host Michigan State in the Cold War II at the Big House this December.

The Detroit News reports a deal has been finalized, and that the two squads will face off on December 11 at 3 p.m. in Ann Arbor.

Michigan will play Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison in February, an event that is expected to draw about 50,000 fans - far short of the Cold War record 75,544, even though Camp Randall is larger than Spartan Stadium.

However, the Big House at more than 106,000 fans could set a record that may not be broken for decades to come. Michigan Stadium is the fourth-largest stadium in the world, and the largest among schools in the U.S. with a varsity hockey program (Beaver Stadium at Penn State is larger, but they don't have a varsity team).

If Cold War II doesn't set the record, Ohio State may try. The Buckeyes' Ohio Stadium (capacity: 102,329) has been mentioned frequently as a future outdoor hockey site, not just for the Buckeyes but also as a potential Winter Classic venue for the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Why MSU Shouldn't Change the Spartan Head Logo

Michigan State athletics officials have confirmed that they will be rolling out a new Spartan head logo this April.

As first reported on Spartan Tailgate, the new logo (right) will replace the current version (left), which has been in place since 1983.

Fan reaction so far has been swift - and mostly negative. An MLive poll was tracking at 84 percent against. Thousands of Spartan fans have flocked to Facebook, where they're organizing protests and campaigns against the change.

Look folks, I'm not going to be able to be impartial on this one. I'll just throw that out right now, so I'll just say what I think.

This new logo sucks. I get that the trend now is making things look mean - from the angry Miami Dolphin to Detroit's Roary the Lion. But why do we have to follow that?

The Spartan head is classic. In a word filled with this and this and this, we've got something that has stood the test of time and still looks cool. If anything, we should put the Spartan head on MORE stuff.

For example, the only logo that can go on specialty license plates is MSU's block S, because that's the one the university controls (the Spartan head is overseen by the athletic department). The S is fine in Michigan, but no one in Maryland will know why you've got a big green S on your plate.

Problem two is the slippery slope argument. Give in to Nike on this one, and something else later, then something else, and where does it end? Oregon football, that's where. Do you want MSU football uniforms to become the joke of the Big Ten? I don't either.

I know this is planned, and I know everything's on track for an April rollout. And if someone from MSU Athletics wants to use this space to state their case, we'll let them.

But as for this reporter, I say throw this one in the dustbin of bad ideas.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Other Side of the Alamo Bowl: Tailgate, Stadium, Impact

So yeah, about that whole "tomorrow" thing... Well, that didn't happen. How does a few days later work for ya? Last time we looked at the food, location and sights and sounds of the Alamo Bowl. Today, we'll get to the game day experience itself.


The Alamodome isn't exactly downtown, but it's not exactly far. You know that in-between walk you don't really want to do, but isn't that terrible? The 20-25 minute kind? Yeah, it's about that. There's an odd feature to the stadium parking lots, and that's that the ones MSU fans were tailgating in are separated from the stadium by active freight rail tracks. So there's actually about two flights of stairs down and then two back up to reach the stadium entrance doors.

No real problem there - but there was one little quibble I'd make. There weren't any port-a-potties in a Spartan-designated area. instead, every portable toilet was parked smack dab in the middle of Texas Tech fans. Given that Tech fans are overwhelmingly nice, that wasn't a problem. Make them Ohio State fans, however, and all bets would be off.


The Alamodome is arguably the best piece of architectural design in west Texas, with a domed roof supported by suspension cables anchored by four spires. Unlike most suspension-supported structures, the supports holding the roof run upwards from the cables, rather than down. It's very cool, if you're into that sort of thing (which I am).

The sight lines are great too. The upper deck is high above the field, so you better like looking down. The best thing about it though, is that there are no corners in the upper deck, so every seat has a straight view down to the field.

Again, nothing is perfect, and neither is the Alamodome. Going up to the 300-level seats? Yep, you're huffing it up stairs. Despite this being an NFL-caliber facility, there are no escalators. And as for drinks, almost all the soda/pop is sold in 20 oz. bottles - for $4 a pop. Yes, $4 a pop.


Perhaps the biggest difficulty the Big Ten will face leaving the Alamo Bowl is that it was always a cash cow for ratings. MSU-Texas Tech was the most-watched bowl game on ESPN this year. Sure, that might have just been the whole Mike Leach thing, but keep in mind that MSU-Nebraska was exceptionally well watched too.

Will the games in Houston or Dallas do as well? Probably not, but we live in hope.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Other Side of the Alamo Bowl: Location, Attractions and Food

I've long said that the Alamo Bowl provides the best fan experience of any Big Ten-affiliated bowl match this side of the Rose Bowl. After going again this year to San Antonio for my second Alamo Bowl (I was working the game for the Spartan Radio Network in '03), I can honestly say my previous opinion was confirmed.

This being a blog about everything but the games themselves, let's take a look at the other side of the Alamo Bowl.


The difficulty with this playing a game in San Antonio - something that will be rectified next year when we trade this game for ones in Dallas and Houston - is that it's hard and expensive to get to. Flights from Detroit basically start at $400 from about 10 minutes after the destination is announced.

Yes, there is the occasional direct flight, but in reality there's almost no way to fly there directly on the cheap. American Airlines flies you through Dallas, Continental and Southwest route through Houston and the Sky Team Alliance (Delta/Northwest) primarily uses Memphis.

But once you're there, wow.

Sights and Sounds

First off, let me disabuse you of a misconception regarding the Alamo City - It's not all about the Alamo. The old Spanish mission and site of the famous battle is certainly worth seeing - once - but after about 35 minutes you're pretty much set. Six flags have been officially flown over the Alamo (Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, Confederacy and USA), but we found out the hard way that you can't hoist a 5x7 Spartan flag on a 15-foot pole on the Alamo grounds. They also had a problem with the MSU cheerleaders doing stunts on the grass inside the walls. Bah humbug.

There's a small tourist trap area around the Alamo (Guinness Book of Records AND Ripley's Believe it or Not attractions are both across the street), but you don't want to stay there forever. Other decent attractions in SanAn are the Tower of the Americas, which has a cool observation deck with a restaurant on top (if you like paying through the nose for your food). There's also a Sea World.

But the real treat of San Antonio is the River Walk, a collection of bars, restaurants, hotels and shops that run along the banks of the San Antonio river. It was so successful when constructed that it has served as the model for waterfront revitalization efforts across the country. The food is a bit pricey - figure in about a 20% premium for pretty much anything - but it's worth it. You could spend hours here, and we did.


Now this is the real treat. When you think of Tex/Mex, you should think of San Antonio. We're not saying you should only go to one Tex/Mex restaurant, but we are saying that one of your visits should be to Mi Tierra in Market Square, the undisputed king of Mexican food in SanAn. What Zehnder's in Frankenmuth is to chicken, Mi Tierra is to Mexican food (except it's good). The restaurant is open 24/7 and seats more than 500 at a time. When we went, on Saturday night, there was a one-hour wait. When we were seated, the wait had grown to two hours. No one complained.

The flank steak was perfect. They nailed the tamales, chips and salsa and folks, you didn't know refried beans could be this good. Perhaps the only let down was the merely average hard tacos, but that was more than made up by the fact that the fajita tortillas were made from scratch - think Panchero's tortillas - and served piping hot. We didn't have room for dessert.

When not in the mood for Tex/Mex, one can only assume that since you're in Texas you're looking for barbecue. Texans seem divided between two chains: Bill Miller Bar-B-Q and Rudy's Country Store and Bar-B-Q. We can't figure out why, because Rudy's is clearly superior.

I've had good turkey, but their BBQ turkey put that on it's ear (in fact, since Rudy's sells whole cooked 12-lb. turkeys for $20, one wonders why any Texan risks it on their own for Thanksgiving). The sausage casing was crisp, with a juicy meaty center. I'm not a brisket guy, but even that was on point. The food is sold by weight, so you can get as much or as little as you want - cheap white bread and sauces are all-you-can-eat. If it's your first time, as it was ours, they'll even let you sample EVERY SINGLE THING THEY SELL before you order.

In contrast, Bill Miller's spawned a new foodie rule - the Bill Miller's BBQ Rule - which basically means that it's good enough but the presence of a far superior alternative nearby means you'll never go again. It's the corollary to the Mitchell's Seafood Rule, which says it's good enough but you'll never go again because it's too damned expensive for the merely good food.

You know, this post is running a bit long. What's say we pick up where we left off tomorrow?

Monday, January 11, 2010

RIP Amo Bessone

I was going to post our recap of the Alamo Bowl, but I wanted to instead devote today's column to giving our heartfelt sympathies to the family and loved ones of Amo Bessone, the long-time MSU hockey coach who put Michigan State on the national hockey map.

The man was an icon from another era, when it was Jenison Fieldhouse and Dem Hall, not the Breslin Center and Munn Ice Arena. Bessone coached the Spartans for 28 years, and brought home a national title in 1966 (possibly the greatest year in Spartan sports history).

Thanks for everything Coach. We'll miss you.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Does Color Matter?

Once again at the bowl game, one of my biggest pet peeves with the Spartan Marching Band happened. Let me first say that I love the SMB. I get as excited about them as I do any other aspect of a football Saturday. I always see the pregame and postgame concerts.

I'm also color blind. I was born with it, had it all my life. I'm red-green technically, but I mess up on a lot of colors. So the color of something is not the first, or even the fifth thing I generally notice. And I generally pay little attention to color, and really don't much care, cause I hardly see it anyway.


Why do our flag girls always seem to support the other team?

Has anyone else noticed that our flag girls will OFTEN have what seem to be randomly selected colored flags? And that many times, by what I can only guess is whatever fabric was on sale recently, our flags are the colors of our opponent in the game? Does this bother anyone else?

From my point of view, it is annoying and distressing. I'm out there in full MSU apparel. So is everyone else around me. So is the team. So is the rest of the Marching Band. The Cheerleaders. The dance team. Those fraternity kids that rings the bell. And then our flag girls will use Texas Tech Red as the color of their flags at the bowl game, and it will be on national TV.

If I was in charge of this, I would have a simple solution. They would be allowed different flags in a "green" category, and additionally, they could have an assortment which included some "white." On the rare occasion, they could perhaps use a color outside of this, but only once they checked the schedule (posted years in advance) and saw it was NOT a color which supported our adversary on that day. And never yellow or blue.

Now, why does this happen anyway? I've been told the argument that "The flag girls need to stand out somehow from the rest of the Spartan Marching Band. That is the way they do it."
This argument made me almost fall over. First, they don't need to stand out. It's not what Spartans do. We're 300 strong, not 295 plus those 5 people wearing neon. The guy who stands out in the crowd at Spartan Stadium is generally going to get popcorn thrown on him for being an Iowa fan, not celebrated for his diversity. Second, they are wearing a completely different uniform than the rest of the SMB, and if that didn't help, they are furiously waving flags. Yeah, we noticed you, you stand out plenty!

So please, for the love of Sparty, can we please see some green flags next season?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

MSU Alumni Assn Giving Free Memberships to Unemployed Alums

I may have missed this before, but this is just such a classy move that I can't let it sit there.

The MSU Alumni Association is offering complimentary memberships to unemployed alums, as part of an effort to help bridge the gap between jobs.

Alumni Association benefits include job boards, resume critiques and interview practices. That can be a problem, however, if you don't have the $45 to spring on a membership.

So kudos to the MSUAA on the program, and pass the word.

If you want to sponsor an unemployed alum, call Jennifer Rahn at (517) 432-1951. If you or someone you know needs to take advantage of the program, call David Isbell at (517) 432-8023. More details here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

MSU-Texas Tech Lights Up TV Ratings

Sorry I didn't get to this earlier, but it's worth mentioning: The 2010 Valero Alamo Bowl was the most-watched bowl game in ESPN history.

Pick your reason why people tuned in - Mike Leach being fired that week, the Adam James scandal overall, the 14 players MSU suspended or the game itself. But they stayed for a great game between two schools that battled until the very end.

About 5.6 million viewers saw the MSU-Texas Tech game, which has to be a good sign for MSU given the good showing we put up under difficult circumstances.

We'll be doing a full Alamo Bowl recap on Monday, so watch for that.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

ESPN 3D Coming in June - With Plans to Cover College Football

ESPN will launch ESPN 3D this June at the World Cup, providing the first sports network with full 3-D coverage of games. The move is a follow-on to limited testing done during the USC-Ohio State football game this year which apparently "wowed" the audiences.

The plan is to broadcast some games in the World Cup, the X Games and then college football and basketball. Given that ESPN/ABC holds the primary contract for Big Ten football, it's quite probable that an MSU game may be broadcast.

Even better, the schedule sets up very well for that to happen.

The technology is expensive - it has been compared to how broadcasting in HD was far more expensive than regular definition when HD first rolled out on a wide level - so expect ESPN to only use it for the biggies.

Speaking of... MSU hosts Notre Dame and Wisconsin, and travels to Michigan, Iowa and Penn State. Given how good those respective teams are expected to be (not Notre Dame, but the Irish are always good for decent TV ratings), there's a high chance that the Spartans will wind up on ESPN 3D at some point.

I can't wait.